A recent survey by British-based institute Roffey Park shed light on the motivations, or rather the demotivations of managers in Singapore’s economy.
With 63% of managers looking for new jobs, organisations should be sitting up and wondering what went wrong. In the production and manufacturing sector alone, a whopping 79% of managers wanted to move from their current jobs.
I spoke to a few managers to obtain some insight why this sector was particularly at risk of talent drain, which revealed the following 5 practices that this sector was guilty of.
1. Changing the job scope at a whim
A manager from a manufacturing firm commented how his company added a clause “Any other ad hoc duties” at the end of the job description he was supplied. At various intervals into the job, he had been tasked to other departments to cover for suddenly absent colleagues with no prior handover and no clue, winging it as he went along. The pressure of being held responsible for the outcome of the other departments during that particular period (especially without any guidance) was too great for him to bear, and he resigned after a few months.
2. Overpromising the decision-making power of the job role
An SME director hired three General Managers, one by one in succession within the span of two years. However the longest serving GM only remained in the company for one year. Subordinates who dealt with one resignation after another shared the unhappiness of the GMs at the lack of autonomy of decision-making, with them having to continually consult the SME director for “little” things such as clothing material for their workers. One GM commented to her subordinate that the SME did not even need a GM, just an Operations Manager to run the show.
3. Perceived unfairness of financial rewards
With bonuses secretly disbursed but publicly discussed among managers, some managers of a better-performing business unit complained about the fact that those in a declining business unit received similar rewards. Without clear policies how bonuses are decided and without a satisfactory answer from the directors, the managers who felt unfairly compensated decided to quit together, causing a frantic flurry to find new managers to take over the bewildered staff, leading back to point 1.
4. Lack of support for innovation and productivity initiatives
Labour chief Lim Swee Say warned during the Budget debate about how labour-intensive sectors which use outdated tools and methods are pulling down labour productivity levels, and how “some companies are resisting change and would rather go out of business than change their operations.”.
After arranging for meetings with organisations pushing for innovation and productivity initiatives such as e2i’s Inclusive Growth Programme, the production manager of a food manufacturer proposed several ideas to the Board of Directors, and waited in vain for any decision to be made as the directors hemmed and hawed over the investment (even after subsidy), refusing to commit themselves till they saw a competitor taking a similar step, even after multiple refinements to the proposals. After a couple of years, the production manager gave up and quit.
5. Vague corporate directions from Board of Directors
Vague directions from the Board Of Directors stalled one marketing manager’s A&P plan for nine months. Another spent four months and twenty revisions to a simple marketing collateral because of last minute changes (not minor ones mind you) coming from each of the several directors at different stages of the process.
Both have also repeatedly asked for clear directions to set their KPIs and information about career prospects in order to know what they need to achieve to obtain their promotion, but received replies such as ‘depends on the economy/company performance”.
It’s such unproductive use of the managers’ time that both are wondering whether they have any career progression prospects in the first place. It’s also not surprising that their company has a turnover rate of more than 15% and staffs don’t bother remembering names of newcomers till they’ve worked for at least two months.
The last straw for another manager came when her superior, a highly capable and experienced GM, was asked to leave after six months, and informed that she had to officially announce she decided to quit, although she had no intention to. There was no clear indication whether someone would take over her duties and her subordinates were left to figure out their department mission and KPIs by themselves indefinitely.
Providing no sense of job protection or security, having an opaque view of their career progression, and continuously constraining managers from productivity and innovation ideas are ingredients to a near-sighted recipe to lose your talent, demotivate your workers and reducing your company’s sustainability and prospects in today’s competitive global environment.